The history behind Sawmills Studios and house band the Golant Pistons
Written by The Cormorant Hotel
The Sawmills Studios, close to our hotel in Golant, has a rich back story. Starting off as a dilapidated building, it became the best place for recording music in Cornwall, and bands The Stone Roses, The Verve and Muse have passed through its doors.
The beginning started off with music producer Tony Cox needing a studio of his own, and in the 1960s it was popular to record your albums in out-of-the-way countryside studios.
Sawmills is situated on the banks of the River Fowey and can only be accessed by boat or foot. It had just half a roof and no windows, so to turn it in to a state of the art recording studio would be some task, which was achieved when it opened in 1974.
Tony, along with Alan Eden, a drummer for folk rock bands, found the Sawmills to be the perfect environment to create their music, as it was totally unique with a certain charm to the place.
The studio aimed to offer high-spec production facilities with the best in the business working as an in-house team. Eden became an integral part of it all, liaising with artists, managers and record companies.
Alan said, "I soon became enamoured with the idyllic lifestyle that Sawmills, Golant and Cornwall in general offered and put all my efforts in helping to get Sawmills 'off the ground' and established as THE place for residential recording in the UK."
They began to bring in local bands and artists to record sessions at the Studios, which would also allow them to source talented musicians to work at the studio. Yet they found they needed to have an in-house band.
Eden was lucky to find a talented local musician, Al Hodge. There were concerns at first, as Sawmills needed to prove they were a contender against big London Studios, but they were put to rest from the first note Al played on his guitar.
Al was brought on as a regular session musician, and now Sawmills had a drummer (Alan Eden) and a guitarist (Al Hodge), they imported a bassist (Dave Quinn) to form the in-house studio band, under the name The Al Hodge Band. The three would regularly back up bands who came in to record, as well as play gigs around Cornwall.
By the end of the 1970s, news was getting around about Sawmills and its popularity rose. The three-piece band were renamed The Golant Pistons, and in the 80s became The Mechanics, and were releasing their own music. Their popularity helped boost the Sawmills Studios status.
In the 80s the band started touring. It was during this time the trio disbanded, yet Al Hodge continued to play. Fast forward to 1997 and the band reformed for a gig, 15 years since they last played together. The popularity of this made Al, Alan and Dave start doing live gigs again.
However, tragedy struck when Al collapsed with a brain tumour and passed away in 2006 with Cornwall losing one of its best and one of its most underrated musicians.
Sawmills Studios is still producing music today, and allows the musicians to stay at the studio where they can create music in its idyllic setting. Whilst staying at our hotel in Golant, take a wander down the river to see the stunning building, and find out more of its wonderful history yourself.
Photo by: Paul McConnell